August 5, 2005
More on Roberts and the (other) Feds
If John Roberts was, as legal newspaper The Recorder reported in 1999, “a prominent member of the conservative Federalist Society”—in fact the Washington Post recently pointed out that he was “a member of the steering committee of the organization’s Washington chapter”—then we really are dealing with Bork II:
On its face, the Federalist Society is just another think tank in a town awash with them. But critics see something more - a well-oiled juggernaut out to remake the courts in the image of Robert Bork, the Supreme Court nominee rejected by the Senate in 1987, who predicted that a new generation, “often associated with the Federalist Society,” would transform the legal profession:
“It may take 10 years, it may take 20 years for the second wave to crest, but crest it will, and it will sweep the elegant, erudite, pretentious and toxic detritus of nonoriginalism out to sea,” he said in a 1987 speech. Judge Bork now cochairs the society’s Board of Visitors with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Nevada, a member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Twenty years later, the organization designed to carry forward Bork’s jurisprudence is trying to get access to the top courts in the country,” says Alfred Ross, president and founder of the Institute for Democracy Studies (IDS) in New York. “It’s extremely dangerous.”
More than a third of the judges President Bush has sent to appeals courts are members of the Federalist Society, say Democratic staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee. (That compares with zero for his predecessor, President Clinton.) It’s a talking point the Bush White House takes so seriously that it asked news organizations to retract reports that Judge Roberts has ever been a member.
It’s worth noting that before Bush announced his choice for the Court, media discussion of possible nominees routinely described Roberts as a member of the Federalist Society. The Society itself even has a 2003 transcript on its Web site that describes Roberts as a member. The only person who seems confused is Roberts himself.
Which, if you think about it, is both absurd and deeply troubling. After all, why lie about membership of an organization that is—according to everyone from the White House to the society’s Web site—so benign?
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